There are two paths to LPR status depending on whether the applicant is living in the United States or another country at the time of application.
Foreign nationals living abroad apply for an immigrant visa at a consular office of the Department of State. Once they are issued a visa, a foreign national may enter the United States and become an LPR when admitted at a port of entry.
Persons who qualify for legal permanent resident status who are living in the United States, including refugees, asylees, and certain temporary workers, foreign students, family members of U.S. citizens or alien residents, and undocumented immigrants, file an application for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). At the time they apply for adjustment of status, they may also apply for permission to work. Adjustment of status applicants are granted lawful permanent residence at the time their applications are approved.
Most legal permanent residents who are at least 18 years of age are eligible to apply for citizenship (i.e., naturalization) after meeting certain requirements. These requirements generally include 5 years of lawful permanent residency in the United States or 3 years for those married to a United States citizen and successful completion of English language, civics, and history tests. Legal immigrant children under 18 years of age may automatically acquire citizenship when a parent naturalizes.
In our next post, we will discuss naturalization.